“Finding the best craftsmen to work with us over the years has been probably one of the biggest challenges in my career. Without these incredible craftsmen and women, the business would never have succeeded as it has.’’ Grant Macdonald
As he began to develop his modern collection for retail, Grant started to outgrow his parents’ basement. By the summer of 1970, he was ensconced in a workshop on the top floor of a property at Benjamin Street, with large plate glass windows looking eastwards towards the Barbican.
Grant continued to experiment with different techniques, developing something he called “electro-texturing”, which was an extension of the process of electroforming. A reporter for BBC4’s New Worlds was led through the process of steel rods, paperclips, air pumps, thermostats and tropical fish tank heaters. For the price of £10, Grant had successfully produced a cheaper version of a plating set-up, allowing him to control the build-up of silver on the textures he had designed, using lacquer to block areas where additional texturing wasn’t required. When the reporter asked why the process seemed unnatural, Grant replied that he was simply extending the crystalline structure of the metal: “This comes out after electroforming in the spiky shapes that nature has designed.”
Grant’s process was used to good effect in emphasising foaming ocean waves on the lid of a silver cigarette box to be gifted to the Prime Minister of Australia. With fifty-four hollow silver waves, individually made alongside a central wave in gold, engraved with the Australian coat-of-arms, the lid was covered. On the inside of the box, an illustration of the main hall of the Baltic Exchange, which stepped away from traditional methods to make use of photo-etching instead.
Electro-texturing, inspired by the prevailing trend for decoration on silver, became the feature of a range of silver pendants, bangles and cufflinks, which were sold through the Design Centre in the Haymarket in London’s West End. For the young graduate, links with retailers were crucial; allowing Grant to sell stock and build his reputation at the same time. With Grant working as silversmith and Carol as jeweller, a new dimension was brought to the business when a fully trade-trained silversmith was hired, and Tony Bedford joined the team.
Grant’s design practice was what might be called a ‘stream of consciousness’, taking an idea and developing the profile of the object in numerous variations. Sketching with blue ink on white A3 paper, Grant hired professional craftsmen who knew exactly how to render his sketches in precious metal:
“Making silver for me is not about individuals, it’s about people working together to get pieces made and beautifully made to stand the test of time.”